Our Lady hears our prayers - Madonna Magazine

Our Lady hears our prayers

30 November 2023

Dear Charlotte and Ella,

In the heart of our city, there is an old church where even a skateboarder or two stops to pray. Vocations flourish in this sacred spot. The young file in with the old, escaping the gray cement outside and finding an endless stained-glass sky within. In this church, there is no shortage of priests. Before Mass, the confession queues are long. Yes, there is more than one queue for confession. If it gets too long, more priests come from the back of the church and walk quietly to a confessional to listen and offer absolution. During the celebration of Mass, priests in robes sit in the pews next to everyday Catholics. At this church, the priests remind the laity: we believe too. I know what you are thinking . . . no, this is not a Latin Mass. Few women wear veils. Yes, it is the Roman Rite of the Church. It’s just a regular English Mass in a typical city. I know it sounds a bit unusual.

My mum, your Mimi, jokes we are true Roamin’ Catholics. Although we have a parish, we go to Mass all over our city. For daily Mass attendees who like to fit the Eucharist into their busy schedules, ‘church hopping’ can be a common practice. Our city has so many beautiful churches; it is fun to visit different parishes, but I’m finding we are spending more and more Sundays here. When I ask you, girls, where you want to go to Mass, you always shout the name of this church.

On a recent Saturday evening, even though the vigil Mass had begun, I popped into the confession queue. Standing, I glanced over the splendour of a healthy parish. Tall young men and young stylish women waited patiently for the confessional. I smiled as I still could not get used to seeing this number of women and men in their early 20s independently coming to Mass with a desire to receive confession before the Liturgy. Just then, I noticed a young man who walked into Mass a little late. He caught my eye because he was carrying a skateboard. Before he genuflected to sit down, he carefully leaned his skateboard on the pew. I had to laugh. Like many cities, we have property crime problems, and he would rather risk a few disapproving looks than his skateboard getting nicked. Some may judge him for bringing in his skateboard and resting it against the pew, but there was a root of reverence behind this skateboarder’s casual manner. A young man skateboarding through the city on a Saturday night, slowing down to meet Jesus in his Eucharist. I had to ask myself, what is it about this church that even ‘skaters’ stop to pray?

As I waited for confession, the homily began. The preacher opened, 'But, there is a priest shortage'. His words zapped me back to the present. The stark Pew Research statistics dulled my mind. Here in this place, all of that seems forgotten. This religious order has more than 40 novices in this province alone. With so many young men in formation, why mention it at all? But the priest continued, his point echoing through the church. Although we desperately need priests, the formation of these novices will still take eight years. In response to the clamourings for an expedited formation, he reminded the congregation, ‘Yes, we need priests, but we need good priests. Priests that want to be saints’. We all agreed.

Many orders have shuttered monasteries and convents due to lack of vocations, but these men are running out of room for all their novices. This order has an embarrassment of blessings. Their struggle is not a lack of novices but one of financing their education and formation. Many archdioceses and religious orders would respond, ‘You are lucky to have such problems’. But Catholics should ask: Why? Why is this novitiate brimming with vocations? Why do the young and old come here for Mass? Why are the queues for confession steady and robust? Why, on a Saturday night, does even a ‘skater’ barely 20 years old stop to attend church here? From the pulpit, the priest answered my questions. He held up a Rosary, reminding those in attendance of their order’s devotion to Our Lady and the daily Rosary.

In that moment, the words of Mother Mary to St Dominic de Guzman resounded in my ears. Facing little success in renewing the faith in France, St Dominic prayed to Our Lady for help. According to tradition in 1208, Our Lady appeared to St Dominic instructing him to pray 150 of her Angelic Psalters (equivalent to three Rosaries) for an abundant harvest of souls,

Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labours, you have
spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine Grace.
When God willed to renew the face of the earth, he began by sending
down on it the fertilising rain of the Angelic Salutation.

As proof of this abundant harvest, a handful of novices walked with baskets down the aisles for the second collection, humbly asking for financial support for their priestly formation. In robes and sandals, they accepted donations from the faithful in the pews. So many novices, I thought, are we in Catholic heaven? I placed an offering in the basket, investing in the future of our Church.

At the end of Mass, the officiating priest walked down the aisle with a rosary in his fist, lifting it triumphantly for all to see. Could it be so simple? The Rosary ­– the reason ‘skaters’ stop here to pray. On my way out, the novices offered blessed rosaries to the congregation. I took two, a blue one for Ella and a pink one for Charlotte. Are these beads the pathway to a flourishing parish? There is only one way to find out.

Your Mum